The Way Back (8/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 120 minutes (rated at
133, but the print I saw was 120)
OK for children.
How bad was Joseph Stalin?
Even though he lived in the same century as Adolph Hitler, Stalin was by
far the worst person of the 20th Century. He not only
condemned millions of perfectly innocent people to death and the
Siberian Gulag, he even tortured his friends to death and starved to
death 34 million kulaks (prosperous landed farmers in early 20th-Century
Russia). If you want to read a horror story, read his biography. Hitler
was a piker compared with Stalin.
This is the story of seven men
Stalin’s Communists sentenced to long terms in the Gulag in 1940. The movie
shows the bleakness and the cold in which these people were forced to
live, which is akin to what Solzhenitsyn describes in One Day in the
Life of Ivan Denisovich. At least what this film shows about every
day life in the Siberian Gulag is what I pictured when I was reading
about Ivan Denisovich.
“Inspired” (as opposed to
“based on”) by a book by Slaomir Rawicz called The Long Walk, seven
men escaped from their gulag, including Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, and
Colin Farrell. Walking away into the forest in the middle of a
snowstorm, they escaped in the dead of winter and a year later, three of
them walked into India, 10,000 kilometers away, after picking up a
woman, Saoirse Ronan, along the way.
Harris plays a laconic
American, Mr. Smith. Farrell is a Russian criminal with silver teeth,
who kills with abandon. Fortunately for all of them, Sturgess plays
Janusz who has plenty of survival skills and thus becomes their leader.
Janusz was sentenced to the Gulag because the Commies tortured his
beautiful young wife into testifying against him. He is driven to get
back to her because he still loves her.
The journey takes a year and
they cross high mountains and burning deserts. It was shot in Bulgaria,
Morocco, and India, and the landscapes are epic. The cinematography of
the magnificent landscapes is one of the major strengths of the movie.
The forest through which they traipse is so cold you almost need warm
clothes to watch them. But then when they are struggling to cross the
Gobi Desert, you can feel their parched thirst.
Directed (and written with
Keith Clarke) by Peter Weir, this is a fine adventure story, even though
it might be a little long.
January 19, 2011